Elevate is the airborne taxi project that Uber has just joined forces with NASA on to bring a fleet of flying taxis to the air by 2020. The get-your-own-ride company signed a NASA Space Act Agreement so it can make the air traffic control system that will be monitoring the low-flying electric pods, which look more like micro-planes than the cars with wings often imagined in science fiction.
But hey, they're still awesome for defying traffic. And even more awesome is that the technology could eventually get advanced enough for them to fly themselves.
Uber will be testing the pods in L.A., Dallas-Fort Worth, and Dubai. If the reality of these things looks anything like the video, you’ll enter a “skyport” where you’ll check in with your smartphone.
Let's assume that the absence of security is meant to make it look slicker; taking off your shoes and running your stuff through a scanner may just become a daily ritual if you fly to work. While you will have to weigh in to make sure you can stay afloat, that one mildly embarrassing phase usually reserved for your bathroom scale would be so worth it—that is, if the reality of Elevate lives up to the vision. Ideally, you’ll be soaring above skyscrapers and rush-hour delays to arrive safely and quickly at your destination.
But first, VTOL.
Vertical takeoff and landing, or VTOL (pronounced vee-tol), is what the Uber vehicles will need to be capable of in order to launch from skyports and streak through the air like something George Jetson would ride on if he didn’t already drive his own personal shuttle. Autonomous electric air-pods can’t be tested when they don’t actually exist at the moment, though. There is also currently no infrastructure to support such a fleet. Tech hasn’t quite gotten there. Yet.
Still, if Elevate really does take off in 2020, you may never be late again.